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CYNIC

Tech/Extreme Prog Metal • United States


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Cynic biography
CYNIC was formed in November, 1987 by guitarist Paul Masvidal and drummer Sean Reinert. To finish up the lineup, Mark Van Erp (later of MONSTROCITY) was added on bass and a friend named Jack Kelly was added on vocals thus making CYNIC a four-piece. This early incarnation of CYNIC was focused on making only brutal death metal with primary influence taken from bands such as VENOM, POSSESSED, KREATOR and DESTRUCTION. It is this lineup that would later be featured on the release of their first, self-titled demo in 1988.

After Jack left in 1988, Paul took over vocal duties, Jason Gobel was added on guitar and and in 1989, they cut their second demo, entitled "Reflections Of A Dying World", consisting of four songs. All of the songs on this demo were of the speed metal/thrash genre, with even some punk elements incorporated within. This lineup soon began touring the south Florida area and bootlegs exist of them as far back as May of 1988. Soon after, Mark left the band, Tony Choy was added on bass and in 1990, CYNIC released their third demo (also self-titled). This helped to gain them a large following throughout southern and central Florida, as well as their constant touring and cameo appearances in the south Florida area. This new lineup would remain intact until at least 1991.

At this time, the bands' influences were already starting to change. While they were still listening to contemporaries like ATHEIST, and were still inspired by seeing how "sick" some bands would get to express themselves, their technical, musical and creative abilities were growing, and consequently, they began listening to more technical forms of music. Their primary influences soon included jazz and fusion, such as Chick Corea and Allan Holdsworth, but also bands such as WATCHTOWER and Frank ZAPPA. This change in technical abilities had already made its way into their songs as the band took a great leap forward in musicianship for their second and third demos.

By the early part of 1991, CYNIC had evolved into a progressive speed/death metal type band, although the band themselves didn't really consider themselves to be death metal. The music had the technicality of progressive speed metal, with the brutality and vocal qualities of death metal. They cut a fourth and final demo in 1991 (financed by RoadRunner Records) consisting of three tracks. Two of these tracks would, in a drastically different form, make it onto their debut album. In April of 1991, Paul and...
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Kindly Bent to Free UsKindly Bent to Free Us
Season of Mist 2014
Audio CD$7.87
$7.86 (used)
Carbon Based AnatomyCarbon Based Anatomy
Season of Mist 2011
Audio CD$6.25
$7.30 (used)
Traced in AirTraced in Air
Season of Mist 2009
Audio CD$8.99
$9.91 (used)
FocusFocus
Remastered · Extra tracks
Roadrunner Records 2004
Audio CD$8.03
$7.24 (used)
Portal TapesPortal Tapes
SEASON MIST AMERICA 2012
Audio CD$15.98
$57.70 (used)
Re-TracedRe-Traced
Season of Mist 2010
Audio CD$5.22
$8.63 (used)
Focus (Black Vinyl)Focus (Black Vinyl)
Remastered
NOL
Vinyl$49.99
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CYNIC shows & tickets


  • Graspop Metal Meeting 2014 on 27 Jun 2014
  • Heavy Montreal 2014 on 9 Aug 2014

CYNIC discography


Ordered by release date | Showing ratings (top albums) | Help Progarchives.com to complete the discography and add albums

CYNIC top albums (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

4.20 | 375 ratings
Focus
1993
4.14 | 385 ratings
Traced In Air
2008
3.75 | 69 ratings
Kindly Bent To Free Us
2014

CYNIC Live Albums (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

CYNIC Videos (DVD, Blu-ray, VHS etc)

CYNIC Boxset & Compilations (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

CYNIC Official Singles, EPs, Fan Club & Promo (CD, EP/LP, MC, Digital Media Download)

2.06 | 11 ratings
'88 Demo
1988
1.76 | 10 ratings
Reflections of a Dying World
1989
2.41 | 9 ratings
'90 Demo
1990
3.03 | 10 ratings
Demo 1991
1991
3.14 | 9 ratings
Promo 08
2008
3.69 | 61 ratings
Re-traced
2010
4.05 | 84 ratings
Carbon-Based Anatomy
2011
3.62 | 36 ratings
The Portal Tapes
2012

CYNIC Reviews


Showing last 10 reviews only
 Kindly Bent To Free Us by CYNIC album cover Studio Album, 2014
3.75 | 69 ratings

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Kindly Bent To Free Us
Cynic Tech/Extreme Prog Metal

Review by UMUR
Special Collaborator Honorary Collaborator

4 stars "Kindly Bent To Free Us" is the 3rd full-length studio album by US progressive rock/metal Cynic. The album was released through Season of Mist in February 2014. It's been six years since the release of "Traced in Air (2008)", but in the intermediate time Cynic released the two EPs "Re-Traced (2010)" and "Carbon-Based Anatomy (2011)". They also put out an archival release in 2012 titled "The Portal Tapes", which is a re-release of the 1995 Portal demo. Portal was a shortlived project featuring the core members of Cynic, founded after the latter disbanded. In addition to working on those releases, Cynic have also toured. Probably more than they ever did when they were initially active. So in short there are several reasons for the long break between the two full-length studio albums. Another reason is probably the core philosophy of of the band. While they definitely don't lack neither drive nor ambition, there has always been a tranquil and laid back vibe about them and a feeling that they will only release something when they are 100% satisfied with the material they've written. On this album they work as a trio consisting of Paul Masvidal (vocals, guitars), Sean Malone (bass, Chapman Stick) and Sean Reinert (drums, keyboards).

The music on "Kindly Bent To Free Us" is probably best described as progressive/alternative rock/metal with jazz/fusion elements and a psychadelic vibe. The latter is mostly due to the sometimes Beatlesque vocal lines and harmonies, but the whole atmosphere reeks incense smelling rooms and laid back days in the sun. Paul Masvidal has always been fascinated by spirituality and although some of the lyrics on "Kindly Bent To Free Us" make absolutely no sense, they still bring a smile to my face and they generally suit the tripped out atmosphere of the album well. The organic and warm sound production also supports that particular atmosphere perfectly. I'm not going to say we're completely in hippie land, but the thought of peace loving hippies often cross my mind while listening to "Kindly Bent To Free Us". On the other hand there is a sweet melancholy to the music too, so it's an album that explore different emotions.

The album features a sound that is very different from what we've heard from the band before, and yet again it sounds unmistakably like Cynic. The tracks are generally less metal oriented (only subdued clean and mellow vocals on this one. No growling) and less technical in nature and also a little more tightly structured and as a consequence more easily accessible compared to earlier material by the band. That's not to say, that the music on "Kindly Bent To Free Us" is simple or that there aren't technically challenging parts being played, because that is far from the truth. There is still fusion influenced drumming and a very busy fretless bass (chapman stick is used too) driving the music forward, but on top, the guitars, the vocals and the keyboards flow in an almost carefree atmospheric fashion. The material is greatly dynamic with both loud parts and more mellow subdued parts.

While the new musical direction probably comes as a surprise (or a shock) for some listeners, it really shouldn't if you payed attention to the musical style on the two preceeding EPs, which both featured a mellow and pleasant sound with only few metal elements. Also if you're familiar with Paul Masvidal's and Sean Reinert's alternative rock project 'on Spoke, the sound on "Kindly Bent To Free Us" might not be so surprising after all.

The 41:52 minutes long album features 8 tracks (9 if you own the deluxe CD book, which features the bonus track "Earth Is My Witness"). it's an album with a great flow, and while the material is consistent in quality and style, there are still enough variation between tracks, to easily distinguish between them. Telling the tracks apart is also helped along by the melodic and quite memorable vocal melodies. At first they might not seem that memorable, but once they get in your mind, they stick. A good example is the opening melody line in the title track, which returns in various forms throughout that track.

So is it any good? Well...this is definitely one of those releases where the listener's expectations and will to accept and embrace new musical ideas will be seriously tested. Cynic are still mostly known in progressive extreme metal circles and most of their fans probably come from that segment, and since they've considerably toned down the extreme metal elements here, the music on the album might not go down too well with the part of their fan base that still see them primarily as a metal act. On the other hand they've undeniably progressed and developed their sound in accordance with their creative muse, and it's always fascinating when an artist pursue what they really feel for instead of trying to satisfy their more conservative fans. In other words this is a fan base divider. Personally I find the album incredibly charming. I don't know what it is about Cynic, but with or without death growls, metal elements, furious fusion drumming, and blistering jazzy guitar solos, they always manage to transport me to a tranquil place and leave me in a completely relaxed state of mind. The music on "Kindly Bent To Free Us" is no exception. A 4.5 star (90%) rating is deserved.

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 Kindly Bent To Free Us by CYNIC album cover Studio Album, 2014
3.75 | 69 ratings

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Kindly Bent To Free Us
Cynic Tech/Extreme Prog Metal

Review by Aldebaran_Well

3 stars Cynic was always about change so, I cannot understand all the fans that criticize the band throughout their career for changing. I declare myself a big Cynic fan too and I always knew that this band would constantly evolve, sometimes even in unexpected ways. Finding myself in the uncomfortable position of not being thrilled by a new Cynic release for the first time, I have to clear out that it's not change that troubles me, only the quality of the result.

Most of you know what Cynic's universe is about: A perfect mix of jazz/fusion and metal, technical excellence, space atmospheres, futuristic visions and philosophy, all tied up together with an aura of mystique. Their two full length albums, ''Focus'' and ''Traced in air'', are masterpieces of extreme prog metal and their last effort, the ''Carbon based anatomy'' EP, introduced us to a new balance in Cynic's sound where jazz, metal, rock, space and even world music elements, created a unique and majestic blend that could perfectly sum up the best of 21st century's intelligent prog music. I expected nothing less from ''Kindly bent to free us'' but to step on that road and even evolve it, if possible. Were the expectations met? Are the above characteristics present? Push the play button.

''True hallucination speak'' kicks off with a typical space intro and the first riff welcomes us to the band's familiar complexity. By the middle of the song I realized that something was missing, there was no raw prog power, neither a real space mood. The chorus and the vocal bridge sounds almost cheerful and I was left with an awkward feeling ? to be polite- , especially considering the fact that bands always choose very carefully the opening track. Awkwardness gave its way to the first clouds of disappointment when ''The lion's roar'' set in. Major notes again ? no problem with that, too major for Cynic though -, soft verse and a chorus which, I hate to say, sounds almost cheesy. Of course, if you focus on the rhythm section the song is great but I couldn't help but feeling that this has a very commercial approach, almost like they tried to compose a hit song. Things fall into place with the album's title track, the main riff is really powerful and emotional, reminding very much of Fates Warning (Parallels era). There's a beautiful, mysterious mood throughout the song, before it explodes into a magnificent, pure jazz instrumental part at the end, certainly one of the album's highlight moments. ''Infinite shapes'' starts again with a ballad-like introduction and at that point, I realized that the band uses the same song structure all the time, a constant sequence of loud part-slow part, which works fine in some songs but eventually gets predictable. It's like the songs are not left free to breathe, flow and stretch. The chorus has a dark touch and it's the only part of the album that I thought the old growling vocals would greatly match. ''Moon heart sun head'' doesn't change much, melodic beginning, same developing, good drum groove, an interesting voice sample in the middle, that's all. By this time, one good song out of five was a nightmare scenario but, thankfully, the album's best tracks are the last three.

''Gitanjali'' steps in with a great tribal drum pattern before the big surprise of the appearance of the first, almost straight rock riff in Cynic's discography. Not bad, not bad at all! In fact, while maintaining the band's basic elements, this song is quite refreshing and it shook me alright. And then, at last?''Holy fallout'', by far the album's best track. This, my friends, is craftsmanship, this can only be composed by prog masters! From the very first notes, the enigmatic essence of Cynic appears and never leaves the song. Magic, mysterious, technical super prog that flows perfectly until the unbelievable slow, doom-like part in the end. Even post rock elements can be found and not only in the trippy e-bowed guitars of the outro. Final track ''Endlessly bountiful'' is here and?is this a glockenspiel?! Yes it is! Yes, it could have been written by Sigur Ros, straight post rhythm groove, choir, wise use of effects and a sweet epic mood, before the wonderful melodic jazz part that brings the album to an end.

I have to concentrate firstly on the cons. If compared to the previous full length albums, ''Kindly?'' lacks innovation and it doesn't feel as inspired. There are many parts that don't stand out as something special and it's difficult to accept that from such a special band like Cynic. Their music in the past could make someone feel like being part of an adventurous sonic journey from ancient civilizations to the very ends of the universe. It doesn't trip me that way now. Another weakness is the vocals, the vocoders and the mechanized voices don't fit so well in the new material. Masvidal's clean voice is quite ok but if the band keeps the present musical direction, greater expression and depth will be required. He doesn't have that range now. Finally, I think that they can expand the production and work in richest arrangements too, the sound is a bit dry.

There's no need to overanalyze the pros. Cynic's music is still better than the 95% of today's prog metal. Paul Masvidal is a genius and Reinert/Malone are one of the best rhythm sections rock music has ever seen and heard. Even the most mediocre idea is performed with absolute expression and precision. It's just that I always expect from them to create music as daring and challenging as it gets. Hopefully they'll do better next time.

For every other band this would be a four stars review. For Cynic, three stars are fair enough, they alone have raised the bar of their art so high.

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 Kindly Bent To Free Us by CYNIC album cover Studio Album, 2014
3.75 | 69 ratings

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Kindly Bent To Free Us
Cynic Tech/Extreme Prog Metal

Review by Conor Fynes
Prog Reviewer

4 stars 'Kindly Bent to Free Us' - Cynic (69/100)

As someone gets older, it's inevitable that some degree of mellowing out will occur. While the pessimistic among us might chalk it up to losing steam and passion, a more realistic way to look at it would be to see it as a reinvention of perspective, a natural development that comes with insight and experience. At least such has been the case for Cynic. Death metal was indelibly changed in 1994 with Focus, its unique blend of death metal, prog, jazz fusion and space ambient remains a unique statement that has never been repeated, even with the release of Traced in Air in 2008. With such a distinct and firm grip of style, Cynic would and could have forged a remarkable career without having changed a thing about their sound...

As it so unfolded (and as anyone who has been following the band will be able to tell you) change was exactly what happened for Cynic. Fast forward to 2014; fans are up in arms over Kindly Bent to Free Us. I've heard it called everything from a masterpiece to the worst piece of garbage this side of Cold Lake. As is usually the case, the truth is somewhere in the middle. Cynic's third album may lack the 'instant classic' masterpiece appeal of their first two, but the band's evolution into mellower depths has still yielded an impressive set of material. Death metal purists should go back to polishing their Demilich records; Kindly Bent to Free Us isn't quite what we had been expecting or hoping for, but its solid songwriting, tight fusion musicianship and a knack for atmosphere have made for a successful prog rock record.

Two things have changed most prominently with this record, when compared to their past work. Most notably, the growling has been tossed out entirely, instead lending the weight of the vocal duties to Paul Masvidal's fragile cleans. Even though the preceding EP Carbon- Based Anatomy followed the purely clean format, a far greater emphasis in the music have been placed on clean vocals, drawing it closer to a more traditional rock format. Secondly- and far more importantly- the atmosphere and tone has filtered out much of the dark heart and melancholy. Check out a song like "The Lion's Roar", and everything from the trademark synthesized vocals to the tight and peppy guitar riffs deliver a vastly different emotional atmosphere than what one might be used to from metal or even progressive rock.

The musical approach feels more straightforward on the surface, but Cynic deliver an impressive level of sonic depth to the performance. Kindly Bent to Free Us enjoys a masterful quality of production and recording; this is headphone music at its most sublime. "True Hallucination Speak" fleshes out an otherwise straightforward rock tune with effects manipulation that would have sounded incredible even on its own. Masvidal's guitar tone has some bite to it, but there's an evident emphasis on clarity. Sean Malone's bass tone has been getting a fair bit of recognition as well, and for good reason; his fretless bass lines sound like they've been drawn from a purely jazz context, and sound incredible when placed among Cynic's rock (or metal) foundation. I don't mean to imply that Cynic's songwriting relies on production wizardry or strong musicianship to get by, but Cynic's execution is far more impressive than the substance of the work itself. The only exception to this lies in Masvidal's vocal performance itself. Although I don't think he is a bad singer, his fragile vocal style really needed the growls to balance it out, and the almost ubiquitous 'robot' vocorder effect feels less like an artistic statement at this point and more of a way to pad an otherwise thin performance.

Kindly Bent to Free Us has certainly grown on me, at least enough for me to acknowledge it as being better than what its detractors have dismissed it has. Cynic haven't lost a shred of their technical abilities, and fans of the fusion metal template won't come away empty handed. I'm still enjoying the album, even long after the familiarity has set in. Without the context of Cynic's past achievements, I may have been more enthusiastic about it; the truth is that in spite of my enjoyment, I cannot help but feel disappointed. Carbon-Based Anatomy included, I have fallen in love with everything Cynic put out before this. Kindly Bent to Free Us, via unfavourable comparison, strikes me as more of a passing affection. " Focus has solidified its place in the legendary pantheon, and Traced in Air felt like an instant classic had been born when it came out. Kindly Bent to Free Us offers none of that awe or promise. It's a disappointment in itself that the impression has been brutalized so much by the context, but expectations were expectations. Fortunately enough, if you're able to get past that red tape and approach the album without the context, there's plenty of enjoyment and wonder to behold in the mellower approach. Take it for what it is, I guess.

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 Kindly Bent To Free Us by CYNIC album cover Studio Album, 2014
3.75 | 69 ratings

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Kindly Bent To Free Us
Cynic Tech/Extreme Prog Metal

Review by Gallifrey

4 stars Like Marshmallow

You know, I was thinking of starting this review by talking about something like Cynic's past or their influence, or maybe how this album is being unnecessarily panned, or maybe the production or the vocals on this record, but I just can't, because there really is just one thing to talk about here, something this entire album revolves around and something that is simultaneously absolutely amazing and incredibly irritating. It took me several listens to pay attention to anything that wasn't this; I just couldn't get past it at all. Without it, I'm sure I would have some comment on the actual music to begin, but I just can't hear anything else.

BASS TONE BASS TONE BASS TONE BASS TONE

Jesus. I don't know whether it's flawless or terrible or neither but I hardly ever find an album that I can hear the bass in, let alone one when I'm constantly focusing on it. I don't think I would know a single lyric or guitar riff to this whole album if I hadn't forced myself to ignore the bass on the last few listens before I wrote about it. The bass is so prominent and so unique sounding that focusing on anything else is near impossible, it's just shouting 'DOESN'T THIS BASS SOUND FUNKY' at you for 42 straight minutes. When 'The Lion's Roar' first dropped as a single, I was enthralled with it as well, the sole comment I made to my friend was 'New Cynic single. Bass tone.' The music was always second to the tone, and I still can't really listen to this album without zoning out and just listening to the bass. Even when it isn't prominent, because it's playing actual bass notes in an actual bass range, it'll come up for a high note every now and then and you'll forget about the music because bass. Like during the middle solo of the title track. When I eventually listened to the guitar part, it's actually a pretty great solo, but the bass is just too distracting to give it any attention, and the best part is when the bass gets a little solo near the end, playing right up in guitar range.

If I were to describe the tone, which of course isn't possible, it would be something near a high- range tuba being patched through a synthesiser. It sounds like a sphere, although not quite like a sphere, like an ellipse or a sine wave. I just know it's something round. The word 'plump' comes to mind a lot whilst listening to it, and I think that if John Petrucci's guitar tone from Dream Theater was a slice of chocolate cake, then the fretless bass tone on Kindly Bent to Free Us is like a soft meringue. Not the [&*!#]ty hard ones you buy in supermarkets, the stuff when it's freshly made and the chef has just lightly blowtorched the top so the skin is ever so crisp, yet it's closer to marshmallow than meringue. Actually, no, marshmallow is probably closer, since this doesn't really have a crisp skin, it's just pure roundness, but meringue tastes and feels so much better than marshmallow, and I'm trying to sound elegant and [&*!#], so meringue it is. I'm rambling.

But to be honest, I'm not sure if this tone is beneficial to Kindly Bent to Free Us as a whole. Sure, there are times when it's insanely cool and it really raises the music up a lot, like during 'The Lion's Roar', when the bass is popping up and down under the lead riff, giving it this wonderfully bouncy and upbeat feeling, really making the song quite a happy and fun one to listen to. The same style comes back again in 'Holy Fallout', but there are other times, like during the opener, that I feel Cynic are trying to connect at an emotional level, and I just can't feel anything when there's a tuba fart constantly playing over everything.

But I guess I should actually talk about the music a bit, since the bass tone doesn't really cover the reasons why so many people are disappointed in this. But first, let's get some context. Cynic were once a death metal band in the 90's, then for some odd reason they decided to reunite 20 years later as a not death metal band. Although Traced in Air was hardly similar to their sole tech death release, Focus, it was just as well-received, due to the ambitious and inventive take on progressive metal they played with that record, bringing elements of avant-garde and electronic to a very unique style of metal. But let's not forget that Cynic didn't really break up. For quite a few years during their hiatus, Cynic, or most of the members of it, existed as alternative/pop rock band 'on Spoke, playing trendy tunes that could fit the radio perfectly, a far cry from the death metal of their past. So when Cynic reunited, especially when they dropped their less-than-metal 2011 EP Carbon-Based Anatomy, many people accused of Cynic just making 'on Spoke music under the Cynic name for the sake of selling more, because the name was more renowned.

Of course, the fact that it was melodic and accessible doesn't exactly mean it was pop music in the vein of 'on Spoke, many of these criticisms ignored the fact that Carbon-Based Anatomy was an insanely technical and progressive EP, with incredibly unique riffs and production, some great ambient tracks, and some really cool vocal lines. And that sound most certainly has followed onto Kindly Bent to Free Us, to the disdain of many fans. This record has been getting a good slapping since it leaked a couple of weeks ago, being called 'hipsterish' and 'indie prog', saying that this is basically the Sunbather of progressive metal, however ridiculous that statement might be.

A lot of the criticisms and wild claims made about Kindly Bent to Free Us may certainly stem from both the shoddy and compressed production and the fact that vocalist Paul Masvidal doesn't sing a single note on this album that isn't filtered through a mass of effects and vocal changing software, making him sound rather generic and unemotive. It's nothing new for Cynic, both Traced in Air and Carbon-Based Anatomy had him singing through a vocoder-like effect that made some really cool tones (although sometimes sounding a lot like autotune), but here on Kindly Bent to Free Us, this new effect makes him sound rather drained and lifeless, I could even compare it to bands like Linkin Park or My Chemical Romance, as much as that would look like a bad thing (check my ratings). Most of this album is sung in a high range, regularly going into falsetto, but it often feels like he's straining, like during the bridge of 'True Hallucination Speak', when he's singing mostly falsetto lines nearly a cappella. Another problem with the vocals is, because they're in an uncomfortable range for him, they regularly sound weak and without power. The melodies here are fantastic, but the voice behind them just feels average at best, like during 'Moon Heart Sun Head', which has one of my favourite choruses on the album, but it feels it could be so much more epic if it was sung by someone with a more powerful voice, and who is more comfortable within that range.

But I think aside from the vocals and production here, there is little reason to complain. The riffs are just as ambitious and interesting as the Cynic riffs of the past, even if some of them border on a bit wanky for my taste, but people who were fans of their first two albums really shouldn't be complaining. Although the bass and its marshmallowness control a lot of the groove on this album, some of the guitar parts are equally catchy, the lead riff from opener 'True Hallucination Speak' being a favourite, pushing a really interesting phrasing of 4/4, which sounds like it's running an odd signature, but the loop back at the end brings it back into 32 in a really neat fashion. There are other consistent good riffs here, and Cynic even begin to play their own style of riff that I've never heard before, like the riff after the chorus of 'Holy Fallout', which sounds kinda similar to the lead riffs in the first three songs, but still different. Cynic have created a new sort of sound with the riffing that I can see bands emulating in the future, something that most modern bands strive for in composing.

In the end, I guess I can kinda level with the people who are disappointed in this. It's nowhere near as unique and spellbinding as Traced In Air or as well-produced as Carbon-Based Anatomy, but I feel the melodies, interesting influences, and of course the bass tone make up for this, creating a pretty decent album and an enjoyable listen. It's no masterpiece, and it's certainly not as good as I wanted it to be, but I can't say that it's bad.

7.2/10

Originally written for my Facebook page/blog: www.facebook.com/neoprogisbestprog

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 Traced In Air by CYNIC album cover Studio Album, 2008
4.14 | 385 ratings

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Traced In Air
Cynic Tech/Extreme Prog Metal

Review by VOTOMS

5 stars "We've been on an amazing journey discovering this new music and soon it will be yours. Expect the unexpected. The album is an intensely concentrated mosaic of internal and external energies, from the deepest peace to the purest aggression. There's an acquired taste that comes with a record of this density, but once your ears wrap themselves around the language at work, everything falls into place and suddenly you'll feel a sudden urge to sing, scream or maybe even cry. The album has a beginning, middle and end. The story will reveal itself after numerous listens and then you may not want to let go. Besides Reinert and I, Tymon brought some new life force and magic to the record with fierce growling and poetic guitar sensibilities. Malone also did a fine job with the low end, grooving away with Reinert in a pocket land from hell!" - Paul Masvidal to Blabbermouth, July 2008

After more than a decade from their debut, the band reunion results their 2008 album, Traced In Air. The album has the same atmospheric and progressive jazz fusion tendencies mixed together with technical death metal, played by the real pioneers of the techdeath genre. Some fans aren't happy enough with this album, cause the leading vocals are less focused on brutality, but the robotic singing. Well, this album is much more detailed and reaches the same full level as the previous one. It's funny to compare the two full lenghts with the first demos and recordings from the band, something in a pure and brutal death/thrash metal form, like Possessed. The first track and last (Nunc Fluens and Nunc Stans) has different philosophies of time. "Nunc fluens facit tempus, nunc stans facit aeternitatum. (The now that passes produces time, the now that remains produces eternity.)" - Boethius. This album has one of the best drum records ever made, in my opinion.

Space For This is just perfect. The song starts slowly and atmospheric, and the progressive, melodic technical songwriting are awesome. The whole instrumentation kickasses. This song makes me feel floating in space. I like the balance between extreme fusion and melodic tunes. Well, the guitar solos are majestic. Evolutionary Sleeper has the same vibe. The drums are outstanding. Integral Birth is beautiful right from the intro. These guys has the hability to jump from agression into a deep slowly passage and back to the heaviness suddenly as hell. The Unknown Guest is another great track, very detailed, and it features creepy tribal vocalizations. Listening to this, you just can't stop any track, the complexity and awesome unexpected riff sequence makes this one of the most catchy albums into the hardcore technical music. Adam's Murmur is good, but it's my least favorite track, and lucky as I am, my cd version includes Adam's Murmur demo. I will explain. This song is cool but too "alternative" for the album. Yeah, it's heavy and wouldn't fit into Aeon Spoke (the alternative rock project from Cynic members), but it's melodic ENOUGH for Cynic. I know, you may say "the whole stuff is melodic enough" comparing with the previous releases, but that's MY point of view. King of Those Who Know reaches the peak of complex songwriting, too many variations, a catchy but hard listening track. Pretty unique album. A must to any prog rock collector.

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 Focus by CYNIC album cover Studio Album, 1993
4.20 | 375 ratings

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Focus
Cynic Tech/Extreme Prog Metal

Review by VOTOMS

5 stars "Sometimes you just burn out on material and we have toured Focus quite a bit. It does have a history and it obviously had an impact as an album, but at some point you do have to move on. With another album under our belts we'll have enough material to really give people a whole body of new material to focus on instead of the past. But I enjoy Focus and to me it does seem like a record that represented something for us that was really honest. And I think it was a solid album, so it's cool that it got some recognition." - Paul Masvidal for PROG-SPHERE.com

This album was the fate of a band after a giant disaster. Cynic plans to record their debut, Focus, were annihilated by the Hurricane Andrew in 1992. The hurricane destroyed the band's rehearsal place and Jason Gobel's home. Restarting from zero, Cynic was able to write new material, and the results were altogether within Focus, finally released September 14, 1993. The project features Paul Masvidal and Sean Reinert, both members of the band Death at their technical death metal album, Human. Cynic has a technical death metal sounding too, and Focus, one of the pioneers of technical death albums, will show you that this genre was more influenced by jazz fusion than any kind of brutal metal stuff. This album has both growls and robotic vocals using a vocoder. The exotic and space atmospherics are present in lyrics as much as in music. By the way, awesome use of the Chapman Stick.

Veil of Maya is the opening track, bringing a monumental songwriting, mixing the sci-fi feeling with death metal, jazzy technical drums and fretless bass. Jason Gobel and Paul Masvidal guitar works completes each other. The song has some smoothy jazz breaks, and the guitar solos are highlights not only here, but the whole album. Celestial Voyage is some kind of heavy space rock. The song is absurdly detailed, every instrument was used to the maximum. The effects and robotic vocalizations together with harsh screams at The Eagle Nature fits perfect at some melodic passages. I like the slow parts of the song, mainly the ending. The drums are so outstanding that if you listen to this album once, you need to listen an additional time only paying attention on the drums. Sentiment, the fourth track, has strange vocals. This song is very different from the previous ones, very progressive too, but the main track isn't heavy. It has an exotic and misterious feeling. It's very interesting the progressive way of Cynic's music. Tempo changes and variations between clean and distorted are everywhere. Even the most extreme passages are harmonious, and it's possible notice some contrasting beautiful effects while the technical explosion is happening. The next track is called I'm But A Wave To..., and it's very melodic, including catchy growls, incredible progressions and expert musician skills. It starts with some water sounbank and a mood for a thriller, following agressive technical death metal soundscape. This song constantly changes the direction in a very expert way during some guitar solos and riffs (2:28" - 3:15"), too much complex. Uroboric Forms is very complex too, but the double bass syndrome was a weak point here, in my opinion. Textures is a technical fusion moment, clean guitars drowned in chorus and beautiful melodies, brilliant riffs under outstanding drums and bass. Dat asskicking guitar feeling and mood changes. The bass solo is a highlight of the track, I really like it. The song has a short string solo ending, just like the very beggining of the track. The grand finale, How Could I, is the great surprise. After a 5/5 album, you finally reaches the final track, and this one is actually better than anything! An explosive technical riffage after an electronic based intro. Growls and robotic vocals again. The bass line, the drums, the guitars, the whole stuff, provides an epic ending to this precious album.

If you still haven't tried Cynic because of the "boring" robotic vocals or agressive growls, it's time to get into Exivious, a Cynic instrumental spin-off.

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 Carbon-Based Anatomy by CYNIC album cover Singles/EPs/Fan Club/Promo, 2011
4.05 | 84 ratings

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Carbon-Based Anatomy
Cynic Tech/Extreme Prog Metal

Review by Horizons
Collaborator Math Rock Team

4 stars Cynic finds themselves amidst the chilling fringes of space.

Ever since their critically acclaimed debut album, Focus, Cynic has continued to change their sound and step away from their death-metal roots. Of course, Traced In Air still had some of these metal footholds, and the songwriting was just as complex and filled with signature hooks. Carbon-Based Anatomy takes this approach to another level. Here, we find Cynic focusing on atmosphere in a very compelling and accessible manner. The music found on this EP is by far their most tame and illustrates the many scenes we dream of far above our skies.

Carbon-Based Anatomy, Box Up My Bones and Elves Beam Out are the real songs here. The title track is the real centerpiece here, and one of Cynic's best tracks to date. Reinert and Malone lock into an intense momentum. Masvidal gives his best vocal performance on the album - the lonely, disconnection of the singing is somehow also warm and caring. A killer guitar solo and a more lush vocal arrangement makes the finale. The growls are completely absent on this album, but throughout the album we're instead given real eerie harmonies and Paul's stripped down vocals - really changing the communication of lyrics. The changes in vocals are most apparent in Box Up My Bones. A guitar ushers in the harmonies and Reinert's crashing drum grooves. This song has one hell of a catchy chorus with more submerged guitar leads adding to that galatic vibe i get from this album. Finally, Elves Beam Out brings the most supernatural groove with Reinert's strangely produced drum work and the heavy-hitting guitar moving lines. Again, whenever the harmonies and sparse lead sections pop out the song becomes very lush, dense, and beautiful.

The other half of them are interludes that are utilized to make the atmosphere on this release more immersive. The album begins with the beautiful Admist the Coals, a song featuring the voice of Amy Correia, sung in the style similar to Sigur Ros. Similar to the post- rock titans the song is very open, captivating, and emotive in delivery. The second piece of this style is Bija!, found after the EP's title track. Bija! is the lowest point on this EP and for me, really ruins Carbon's sense of flow. The piece alone isn't so bad, strongly Indian influenced with sitar playing and percussion accompanied with hush vocal harmonies. The problem with Bija! is the break of the spacey style that is prevalent on the rest of the album and the lack of a real Cynic touch on the track. Finally, the album exits with Hieroglyph. Crumbling drone with post-rock swells brings you to the soft, poetic narrative of Amy that fades into the last note of the album.

Cynic really has something here. The production is great on this record and the band is tight with their new sound that should appeal to old fans and newcomers. I really hope the guys put out a full-length release with a continuation of this style.

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 Traced In Air by CYNIC album cover Studio Album, 2008
4.14 | 385 ratings

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Traced In Air
Cynic Tech/Extreme Prog Metal

Review by IcedPorcupine

5 stars Cynic "Traced In Air" 10/10

This album...oh man this album. I have no doubt that I have easily listened to this beyond awesome LP hundreds of times; Traced In Air is truly the epitome of a perfect album. It has all the elements required for an album of its type, and hits the bar way up there for Prog albums. It has the perfect blend of partially heavy prog riffs, to lighter, easy sections with clean guitar. Cynic seemed to have everything together when writing/recording/producing this album, as the result is an incredible composition of art.

This album was released after a 12 year disbanding, and the reforming was accepted with incredible love and celebration. The material is composed of bits and pieces that the members have had adding up over the years since the release of their 1993 debut "Focus" With Traced In Air, the replacement of old guitarist found on Focus was done by Tymon Kruidenier, who does guitar work as well as death growls on this album. With so much time between releases, it is an incredible relief that Traced In Air delivered perfectly what was anticipated.

The clean vocals, done by Paul Masvidal, contain an almost un-human robotic sound to them. Accompanied occasionally by Amy Correia, doing clean back-up vocals, and Tymon Kruidenier, doing the album's death growls, the singing on this LP are done extremely well, and perfectly run along side each track. Full of emotion, the singing, unique and incredible, do an excellent job delivering the lyrics, creating the perfect atmosphere that I feel Cynic has attempted, and succeeded, in setting up. The lyrical work found throughout the album has a unique feel and sound to them, unlike most I have seen other bands produce. "I touch the string though the harp may not sing/Still I dig the sky for sun sparks to guide/Down below there's a land with an ominous hole/Dug deep in the sand of belief" lyrics found in the album's fourth track "Integral Birth" help demonstrate this; The lyrics, though definitely beautiful and smooth, hold a mysterious sound to them. I simply can't do anything but love them.

One thing I really enjoy in music, though have trouble writing in my own compositions, is effective and well placed layering. Cynic's Traced In Air does an exceedingly awesome job of this technique. The harmonies placed over the rhythmic low end in some songs, with the incredible singing to push it all beyond the line of seeing-the-earth-from-space-awesome. The kind of awesome that catches your breath and says "Hold on, you're going to really enjoy this" The work has been done with incredible skill , despite the fact that the layers are definitely not a feature of the album, but a warm fuzzy side effect of this great piece of art.

The shifts from technical to slow and simple are done with incredible finesse. Cynic truly has this technique mastered on this LP; Excellent transitioning is a great aspect to find on some of the best Prog albums, assisting in the push of Traced In Air to many of these lists. The first two tracks prove as a breathtaking example of this. "Nunc Fluens" and "The Space For This" respectfully, transition between the incredible build up that is the album's intro track "Nunc Fluens" to the start of "The Space For This" which holds on to simple and easygoing sounds Cynic has been able to show they know how to do well. Following this is a fantastic transition into the bulk of the song, which is a progressive wonder. This pattern continues without any disappointment from myself throughout the LP.

The drumming on this album is a style I love. This genre houses some incredible drumming, but the work done by original member and drummer, Sean Reinert, is above and beyond a lot of what I hear done by others. His style is unique and awe-inspiring. Additionally, it does an incredible job of flowing with the music, and can be highlighted in some sections of the album, becoming the bricks and mortar both of the album at different times. Reinert's style I find is a fantastic blend of technical and simplicity, becoming the correct style at the correct time. Every time. Additionally, I love the sound of the drums throughout the album. I can assume this is the mixing/mastering at work, however, Reinert's choice of weapon, the Tama Starclassic Performer, is a drum kit that sounds like love and fire, accompanied by the danger of electricity. So it could be arguably both an editing sound, or instrument sound, either way, it sounds amazing, and plays well with this style.

After an abundance of hours spent listening to this masterpiece, I find I can never get bored of this grand display of art. Each time it somehow offers itself as a fresh composition, never letting go of its incredible sound and fantastic track-list. The progressive and jazz elements of this album are perfectly accompanying each other, much like a musical Romeo and Juliet; The two genres have met once again, this time on Traced In Air, and instantly render as beautiful and beyond awesome.

I am certain this LP has many millions of plays ahead of it.

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 The Portal Tapes by CYNIC album cover Singles/EPs/Fan Club/Promo, 2012
3.62 | 36 ratings

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The Portal Tapes
Cynic Tech/Extreme Prog Metal

Review by kev rowland
Special Collaborator Crossover Team

4 stars Although this may appear to be a 'new' album from Cynic, it is in reality an album that is now more than 15 years old. Back in 1993 the band released the wonderful 'Focus' where they mixed together metal, jazz and prog in a way that some people fully understood while others didn't, and it has to be said that their record label probably fell into the latter camp and didn't promote it as they should have done. Now, if you are only aware of the recorded history of the band you probably think that following the debut they didn't do anything until the widely- acclaimed sophomore 'Traced In Air' which came out in 2008 following their reformation, but you would be wrong. Following a lot of touring to promote 'Focus' the band split up, only for Paul Masvidal, Sean Reinert and Jason Gobel to get back together for a new project called Portal. To complete the line-up they brought in Chris Kringel and Aruna Abrams, the latter to provide a female lead/harmony vocal as they went for a different musical and vocal approach. They recorded a demo album, but nothing ever came of it until now ? strangely there is no mention of the album or the project on the band's website, but at long last we have the opportunity to hear it.

What is really interesting about this album is that while it would have surprised a lot of Cynic fans if it had been released at the time, it now sounds incredibly relevant to both what Cynic are doing and also to the music scene in general. The twin vocals work extremely well, while of course the intricate musicianship is just what one expects from these guys. The addition of Chris Kringle has made quite a difference to their overall sound as he plays fretless instead of fretted bass, and that adds a very different warmth and feel to the sound. The way he bends notes and gently moves around the music provides extra dynamics and lots more depth. Some of the songs are almost radio friendly with Aruna's vocals being quite similar to Tracy Hitchings, relaxed but with clarity and range.

I still find it hard to think that this album was recorded as a demo in the Nineties, and that it has taken until now for it to be released. It is not nearly as heavy as Cynic could be back in the day, with far more atmosphere and light within the shade, and is something that progheads need to search out much more than metalheads with prog and jazz elements often taking centre stage. www.season-of-mist.com

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 Traced In Air by CYNIC album cover Studio Album, 2008
4.14 | 385 ratings

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Traced In Air
Cynic Tech/Extreme Prog Metal

Review by UMUR
Special Collaborator Honorary Collaborator

5 stars "Traced in Air" is the 2nd full-length studio album by US progressive metal act Cynic. The album was released through Season of Mist in November 2008. Cynic were quite a prominent name on the progressive part of the early nineties US death metal scene and they released one of the seminal albums on that scene in "Focus (1993)". They had released no less than four demos from 1988 - 1991 though and various members of the band had also worked as session musicians on albums by artists such as Atheist, Pestilence, Master and Death before the release of "Focus (1993)". They toured shortly to support the release of their debut album, but then disbanded to concentrate on other projects. So "Traced in Air" is a genuine comeback album 15 years down the line. The lineup has seen one change as guitarist Jason Gobel has been replaced by Dutch guitarist Tymon Kruidenier, who also delivers the sparse growling vocals on the album.

"Traced in Air" is a compact album featuring 8 tracks distributed over a 34:16 minutes long playing time. Not completely unlike the format of "Focus (1993)". The music style and overall sound has changed quite a bit since the debut though. The high pitched growling vocals are more subdued this time around (and predominantly appear low in the mix) and mostly appear as backing to the clean vocals and as a consequence the death metal tag that the band were given in the early nineties isnīt that valid anymore. While the technical level of playing is certainly high (and still features jazz and fusion traits) and the tracks challenging in structure and dynamics, there is a tranquil/spiritual atmosphere about "Traced in Air", that is even more pronounced than it was on "Focus (1993)".

The album features one brilliant track after another. Tracks like "The Space for This", "Evolutionary Sleeper" and "King of Those Who Know" are breathtaking to say the least. The only track I find is slightly sub par to the rest is "The Unknown Guest", but weīre still talking a high quality progressive metal track, so itīs a minor issue, that more than anything else probably comes down to personal taste.

The music is multi-layered and quite difficult to grasp upon initial listen, but fortunately the sound production is detailed and well sounding, which helps to easier understanding the music upon repeated listens. So "Traced in Air" is an album that wins on all perimeters and if you view the album in an overall perspective itīs not only a unique sounding release in Cynicīs discography but also a unique sounding album in music in general. A rare a achivement that fully deserves a 5 star (100%) rating.

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